- Step 1 – Yearly – Plan for monthly thematic units for the whole year.
- Step 2 – Monthly – Plan for the learning centers (dramatic play, sensory table, blocks, art, literacy, math).
- Step 3 – Weekly (usually Sunday nights, but I dream of being more of a plan-aheader) – Plan for a circle time lesson for each day, and choose the book for story time each day.
- Step 4 – Daily – Set out the art supplies, morning work, table games, etc.
I honestly feel that the most important part of this 4-step process is the yearly planning. When I have a framework for the year, then everything else seems to fall into place. I become a hunter and gatherer all summer (and all year!) long, collecting things that I know will be perfect for each of my themes.
It is really important to pick great themes for your class. Some people advocate choosing themes as you go along, based in the interests of the children. I understand that! What I have found, though, is that I can pretty much guess what my preschoolers are going to be “into.” Also, if there is something that they are particularly fond of, our curriculum is flexible enough to include books and other activities about that topic.
Ideal preschool themes have these characteristics:
- They are interesting and relevant to your age group.
- The children are somewhat familiar with the theme.
- The topic is high-interest and developmentally appropriate.
- The theme offers lots of opportunities for related art, math, science, and dramatic play.
- There are plenty of appropriate picture books to support the theme.
- The theme is something that both the students and the teachers get excited about!
- Letter of the week, Number of the Week, Shape and Color, etc. (These are skills, not themes and can be included within the context of the unit.)
- Anything TV or movie related. (No Mickey Mouse, Princesses, Ninja Turtles, etc.)
- Anything that your students have never heard of is probably not a great theme. We want to be able to activate their prior knowledge of the topic and build on it.
Here’s a blank planning template for you to use. Print it off today, choose your themes, and check off Planning Step 1. You’re off to a great start.
If you’re looking for help with Step 2 (Monthly Centers) and Step 3 (Daily Circle Time), I have created these thematic units that are great to use with a preschool class. They are exactly what I use with my own students every day.